7 minute read


On a Mission to Make You Feel Good

The Optical Boutique opened its doors in Kerrisdale in 1979 and introduced Vancouver to eyewear collections that had never been seen before. Unlike mainstream labels that the city was accustomed to seeing, the store offered independently designed collections often handmade by artisans from around the world.

Owner Sue Randhawa joined The Optical Boutique as a Licensed Optician in 1997 and took over the business ten years later. She was born in India and was raised in Vancouver.

The original building was demolished; in 2013, the store moved into its new home on the same site. Sue notes, “I wanted to retain the old charm of the village, and the interior of my store reflects that. I am an antique collector, and the antiques inside the store are from the happier times of long ago. I’ve collected some of these items from trips abroad. Many have been given to me by clients, and those are my favourite items. Clients enjoy the comfort of the store’s interior while knowing that they will have the most innovative lenses and frames to select from.”

Sue’s natural flair for fashion was recognized by The Globe and Mail newspaper in 2021 when she was included on the list of Canada’s ten best-dressed people.

“I dress the way I do because it gives me great joy, and I admire other people who do the same. I never thought it would be noticed enough to get on the Globe and Mail’s Best Dressed list. The outpouring of excitement from Kerrisdale was astounding. Every day someone will come in and mention this. To even be noticed was a career highlight,” she says.

“Fashion has been a part of my life for a very long time. I come from humble beginnings – I was one of five children and didn’t have a whole lot. We would make do with what we had, but I was always experimenting. The world around me was my inspiration. This is where I realized how important colour is; it is often overlooked, but it plays an important part in how I dress. We have a few seconds to make that first impression, and I want mine to be a memorable one.”

Fashion goes beyond the way Sue dresses. She has been a supporter of Vancouver Fashion Week for several years and created a scholarship for an emerging design student attending a Vancouver post-secondary school. “It’s a difficult career field to break into, particularly in Vancouver. I try to help in terms of finance and mentorship.”

I have an incredible all-star team that works alongside me to make it all happen.

Unlike an ordinary optical store, The Optical Boutique’s opticians have a style component to fitting their clients with frames that includes considering their existing wardrobe, individual personalities, and facial features. Fashion is also an integral part of the store, and styling each client is a unique aspect of the business model.

Sue describes how colour often scares people, but it's usually because they don’t know what works on them. “That is where we come in,” notes Sue. “People find us because they’ve admired eyewear that they’ve seen on our clients. We make choosing eyewear with colour less daunting by doing a colour analysis – it’s a short process, but we’re able to see which colours will work while staying within your comfort zone.”

Our mission is to make people feel good. We are not going to sell a pair of glasses to make a sales quota.

The Optical Boutique has glasses in every price range, and no one is made to feel that their eyewear is expensive or unaffordable. Unlike many stores today, Sue and her team fix and repair glasses when they can and even make trips to the homes of elderly clients. “In many ways, we are still the old-fashioned business of 1979 when your word meant everything. Ours is a business based on honesty and integrity,” says Sue. “People remember this — it gives them a good feeling, a feeling they will never forget.”

She adds, “Our goal goes beyond finding the best pair of glasses for our clients. Along the way, we may discover a client’s creativity that they haven’t tapped into in years or their desire to express some individuality. We help our clients realize their strengths and beauty, regardless of their age or gender. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing someone glow with newfound confidence because they have the right eyewear.”

The carefully curated collections change constantly, and most of the buying is done abroad. Sue travels two to three times a year; she seeks out distinctive artisans that make extraordinary, cutting-edge designs. She takes into consideration the design process, how and where frames are made, and from what rare or sustainable materials they are made. Now that travel has resumed, she will travel to the New York and Paris shows, followed by Milan.

The Optical Boutique offers its clients eyewear that stands out and is not usually available anywhere else. Most other optical stores carry products that are stamped with trendy names. Sue purchases her collections because they are designed based on real people and their individual features. “We fit our clients based on their personality and lifestyle. When we do this, the eyewear style lasts a very long time as opposed to merely one or two seasons.”

Sue’s personal eyewear collection is made up of 25 to 30 pairs that she rotates through, sometimes wearing different ones on the same day. She says, “I choose them based on the esthetic of the frame rather than the designer.”

Some of The Optical Boutique’s clients go back to 1979. Sue credits them for helping to establish the business.

“Now their children, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren are the people that we are serving. With the power of social media, we continue to grow despite never advertising – our eyewear speaks for us, and the people wearing it talk about us.” Sue explains that her client base has spread all over Canada and the United States. “The pandemic has changed the way business is done, and as a result, we are now able to do virtual consultations, which has opened a new segment of the global population for us,” she says.

The best client stories are always about how they love their glasses. A long-time customer stated when she passes away, she wants to be wearing her favourite pair of frames. The rest of her glasses were to be packed carefully so that she would have them with her when she reached ‘the other side.’”

The Optical Boutique has been featured in many national publications, such as Fashion Magazine and TV segments, such as Global TV. “I continue to enjoy working as an optician – it’s what I love to do,” says Sue. “With the exposure we have been receiving, I’ve been asked to speak at fashion and industry events. This is a new avenue for me, but one that I’m enjoying.”

Sue concludes, “Our clients are our biggest reward. We have been privileged to serve some of the most interesting people in this city, people who we get to talk to for a short while to learn a little bit about their lives. To know that we’ve been given an opportunity to play a small role in their lives is an honour.”

The Optical Boutique

2265 W 41st Avenue

Vancouver, BC V6M 2A3

Phone 604-261-9412